People taking statins have lower risk of parkinsonism, study suggests

Researchers said the drugs could be used to help reduce the effects of the neurological conditions in the general population.

Nina Massey
Wednesday 23 March 2022 20:00
People who took statins were found to have at least a 12% reduced risk of developing parkinsonism, the research suggested (Lauren Hurley/PA)
People who took statins were found to have at least a 12% reduced risk of developing parkinsonism, the research suggested (Lauren Hurley/PA)

Older people taking statins have a lower chance of developing parkinsonism – movement problems including tremors, slowed movement and stiffness – than those not taking the drugs, a new study suggests.

Parkinsonism is a term for a group of neurological conditions, with Parkinson’s disease being one of the better known causes.

Researchers suggest statins – drugs used to lower cholesterol – could be used in future to help reduce the effects of parkinsonism in the general population of older adults, and not just those with high cholesterol or who are at risk for stroke.

Study author Shahram Oveisgharan, of Rush University Medical Centre in Chicago, America, said: “Our results suggest people using statins may have a lower risk of parkinsonism and that may be partly caused by the protective effect statins may have on arteries in the brain.

“Our results are exciting, because movement problems in older adults that come under the umbrella of parkinsonism are common, often debilitating and generally untreatable.”

The study looked at 2,841 people with an average age of 76 who did not have parkinsonism at the start of the study. Of these, 936 people were taking statins.

People who took statins were found to have at least a 12% reduced risk of developing parkinsonism, the research suggests.

The scientists followed up with participants annually for an average of six years to check the statins they were taking and to test for signs of parkinsonism.

By the end of the study, 1,432 people developed signs of the condition.

More research is needed, but statins could be a therapeutic option in the future to help reduce the effects of parkinsonism in the general population of older adults, not just people with high cholesterol or who are at risk for stroke

Study author Shahram Oveisgharan

The researchers also examined the brains of 1,044 people who died during the study and found that those who had been using the drugs were less likely to have a build-up of plaque in the arteries that can lead to heart attack and stroke.

Dr Oveisgharan said: “More research is needed, but statins could be a therapeutic option in the future to help reduce the effects of parkinsonism in the general population of older adults, not just people with high cholesterol or who are at risk for stroke.

“At a minimum, our study suggests brain scans or vascular testing may be beneficial for older adults who show signs of parkinsonism but don’t have classic signs of Parkinson’s disease or do not respond to Parkinson’s disease medications.”

A limitation of the study was that parkinsonism evaluations were not performed by movement disorder specialists, so cases of Parkinson’s disease may have been misclassified.

The findings are published in the Neurology journal.

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